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FBI Director Affirms Danger of TikTok at Worldwide Threats Hearing

Mar 11, 2024 | Comunicados de Prensa

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Director Christopher Wray confirmed TikTok is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party and poses a significant concern to national security.

The comments came after Vice Chairman Marco Rubio (R-FL) of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence pressed Wray on the national security threat posed by TikTok during the annual Worldwide Threats Assessment hearing.

Click here for video and read a transcript below:

RUBIO: I talked about TikTok in the opening. Just to lay the groundwork here: TikTok is a company headquartered, putatively, in America. And they have this platform which is fascinating. It’s very effective. It has a lot of members. One of the things that powers it is an algorithm based on artificial intelligence, where the more you use it, the more it learns about you. In essence, it reads your mind. It knows the kinds of videos you like, and it feeds you more and more of them, causing you to go back. That algorithm is not owned by TikTok. It’s owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company. Correct? 

WRAY: That’s my understanding.

RUBIO: The only way that algorithm works is if that Chinese company has access to the data being generated by TikTok. The owner of the algorithm, ByteDance, has to have access. So, it doesn’t matter where the data is stored. Ultimately, they have to have access to it in order to make the algorithm work. Correct?

WRAY: Right. The key point is that the parent company is, for all intents and purposes, beholden to the CCP.

RUBIO: Well, if ByteDance, in China, is the one that owns the driver that makes TikTok effective, isn’t it true that under Chinese law, the Chinese Communist Party says, ‘That data that you’re gaining access to in order to make your algorithm work, we want a copy of that data.’ If they said that to ByteDance in the future, ByteDance would have to give it to them.

WRAY: That’s my understanding.

RUBIO: And if they went to them and said, ‘We want you to change your algorithm so that Americans start seeing videos that hurt this candidate or help that candidate in the upcoming election,’ ByteDance would have to do that under Chinese law.

WRAY: That’s my understanding.

RUBIO: And if they said, ‘We want you to put out videos that make Americans fight with each other or spread conspiracy theories and get them at each other’s throat,’ ByteDance can’t go to Chinese court and fight the Communist Party, they would have to do it.

WRAY: That’s my understanding. And I would just add, that kind of influence operation, or the different kinds of influence operations you’re describing, are extraordinarily difficult to detect, which is part of what makes the national security concerns represented by TikTok so significant.